Friday, 27 October 2017

Thor: Ragnarok - Movie Review

Of all the main heroes that have been introduced in the grand sweeping Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thor is arguably the least interesting of the bunch. He’s never been bad per se, and Chris Hemsworth has always delivered a solid performance, but the god of thunder has never had the real depth in character to him that has made other heroes like Iron Man, the Hulk and Spider-Man that much more interesting. His two solo films are among the weaker of the MCU’s offerings, being both solid yet not spectacular action rides, and in The Avengers he’s not exactly the main highlight – ironic given that his brother Loki has been one of the most loved characters among the fanbase especially in The Avengers, thanks mainly to a delightfully slimy yet wonderfully balanced performance by Tom Hiddleston. So a third solo Thor movie wasn’t initially up there for me in terms of excitement but my curiosity was increased somewhat by the revelation that the film would be adapting from the Ragnarok storyline from the comics, concerning the apocalypse in Norse mythology. Add on to the fact that we were suddenly going to get another appearance from the Hulk, who shot up to the top of the hero pile following The Avengers thanks to an awesome performance by Mark Ruffalo, and the prospect of a third Thor outing started to look much more appealing.

In this latest adventure, Thor has experienced visions of Ragnarok, the end times in Norse mythology and the rise of fiery demon god Surtur (motion captured by Taika Waititi and voiced by Clancy Brown). This looks all to be certain by the emergence of the Goddess of Death Hela (Cate Blanchett) who takes over Thor’s home Asgard, shatters his hammer Mjolnir and inadvertently banishes him to the strange planet of Sakoor, led by the enigmatic Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor is forced to fight in a gladiator match where his opponent is, much to his surprise (and glee), the Hulk, who ended up on the planet following the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron. With a fellow Avenger by his side, Thor must find a way to escape from Sakoor and return to Asgard in order to stop Hela and prevent Ragnarok from happening.

Right away it can be said that this is by far the best Thor movie and a lot of it can be put down to its strong spectacle and humour. Visually Ragnarok is absolutely stunning – the planet of Sakoor is gorgeous to look at with the contrasts between the dirty litter ridden streets at the bottom of the planet and the colourful almost psychedelic interior of the planet’s buildings – it truly makes you think that this is a crazy world that Thor has found himself on and the truly engaging spectacle just shows off the pure imagination of the writers. This is complimented by a fantastic score by Mark Mothersbaugh, who brings in 80s sounding keyboards into his music to create the out there sci-fi tone of the film whilst also working well with the dramatic moments. The humour meanwhile is some of the best that we’ve seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and makes the film challenge Guardians of the Galaxy as the funniest film in the franchise – every character gets at least one funny moment and none of it feels forced, with the standout humorous character being Korg, a rock monster whom Thor befriends that plans constant revolutions – and is voiced by director Taika Waititi with his high pitched New Zealand accent, which helps to bring a sense of levity to the character. Additionally, the movie doesn’t hesitate to get serious when it needs to be; Ragnarok is a threat and Hela’s actions are menacing, which the film doesn’t mishandle. This makes Ragnarok almost simultaneously the lightest and the darkest Thor film, where it’s tonnes of fun throughout but never loses that sense of threat that’s going on.

What really helps the movie rise up to greatness though are the characters both old and new. As mentioned Thor was never the strongest Avenger in the past, being a bit too two-dimensional and a bit one-note, but here he’s far more enjoyable, having far more wit to him whilst also being capable of kicking serious arse, and you feel sorry for him in the moments where he has what he loves dragged away from him, particularly Mjolnir. Likewise Hiddleston as Loki is still funny, slimy and tragic in equal measures, with the apathy that Thor now demonstrates towards him clearly taking its effect on him and you wonder if he really can be fully redeemed after all. And much like he was the star in The Avengers, Hulk is the star of this film – thanks to an extended period of time where he didn’t transform back into Banner he started to become slightly more human, speaking in full (albeit very broken) sentences for the first time in the MCU. He’s still a really engaging presence as you start to wonder whether Hulk and Banner have finally become one and sells the tragedy of the character wonderfully, particularly in the scenes where Banner has returned to his human state. Of the new characters Cate Blanchett is having a whale of a time hamming it up as Hela, who ranks as one of Marvel’s better villains thanks to an engaging backstory, Tessa Thompson is very funny as the hard-drinking Valkyrie and Karl Urban is as awesome as ever as Skurge, the new gatekeeper at Asgard who is convinced to be Hela’s right hand man. But quite obviously the best new character is the Grandmaster – this is Goldblum at his most Goldblumy and he’s such a joy to watch as he lets loose as the incredibly eccentric character – it’s hard to imagine another actor in his place.

Thor: Ragnarok ranks as not just the best Thor film by a mile but it may be the best film to feature the character – it really does for him what The Winter Soldier did for Captain America and elevates him up from being an OK if not a little uninteresting character into a far more exciting and fun presence. Director Taika Waititi and the writers really came up with a visually spectacular and imaginative piece of filmmaking that is always engaging and delivers gags at such a rapid rate that you’ll be hardly pausing for breath throughout. The new characters are all fantastic and the presence of the Hulk really assists Ragnarok in becoming such a fun thrill ride, which ultimately elevates the film into becoming one of the absolute best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Thor: Ragnarok – directed by Taika Waititi, screenplay by Eric Pearson, story by Pearson, Craig Kyle and Christopher Yost, produced by Kevin Feige, starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Cate Blanchett, Idris Elba, Jeff Goldblum, Tessa Thompson, Karl Urban, Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Hopkins. A Marvel Studios production, a Disney film

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